The way Anita Andersch tells it, you've got to put forth your very best defense -- and, if possible, your biggest and best defender -- ifyou're going to stop Thori Staples.

Still, that might not even work.

"She's just a pure threat," said Andersch, Staples' coach on the girls under-19 Crusaders soccer squad in the Maryland Youth Soccer Association.

"We've had teams mark her with these big women who can just knock you on your butt. And it's always the other girls who end up laying on the ground and getting medical attention while there's Thori dribbling up the field."

Last Sunday's MYSA State Cup championship game against the Bethesda Peppers at Howard County's Glenwood Park gave a good indication of why Staples is considered such a threat. Staples broke free for a pair of second-half goals in a 2-1 victory, which helped the Crusaders capture their fifth straight State Cup title.

Each of Staples' tallies was a result of her superior strength and soccer abilities.

The first goal developed after teammate Samantha Andersch, Anita's daughter, fed Staples from the far sideline. Staples, who was elbow-to-elbow with a defender, sprinted out to meet the ball about 10 yards across the midfield stripe, quickly gaining the inside position -- and about a three-step lead -- on her opponent.

As Staples reached an area about 20 yards straight out from the goal, keeper Julia Randolph, noting her teammates futility in trying to stay with Staples, emerged to try to cut the shooting angles.

"When the keeper made her move, Thori just flicked it in," said Andersch. "It was beautiful."

The second goal, explained Staples, was nearly identical to the first, except Staples threaded a soft, low shot between Randolph and the post to her right. The area of penetration was about 3-feet wide.

"There was more space to her left, but she was leaning that way so I went near post," said Staples. "When I got the ball, we were in the middle of the field, and I just took the defender on."

Easily understood, since Staples, a Joppatowne High junior, is a two-time All-Harford County first-team selection, an All-Metro player and the Mariners' leading scorer in all three varsity seasons.

A year ago, she was a national runner-up heptathlete. This year, Staples won her second consecutive Class 1A state titles in both the 400- and 800-meter runs and added the long jump title after a runner-up finish last year.

As a defender for the Crusaders in lastyear's Columbia Memorial Weekend soccer tournament, Staples anchoreda defense with four straight shutouts before the team yielded a 2-1 loss in the championship game. Later last summer, Staples' defensive efforts landed her a spot on the state's under-16 select soccer squad. She was also one of seven players selected for the regional camp pool of 110 girls, although she chose her heptathlon commitments over that honor.

The State Cup win earned the Crusaders, runner-ups in the regional tournament the last two seasons, another shot at a regional title in the July 3-7 regional tournament. And if last Sunday's game was any indication, Staples should help the Crusaders take it.

"(The Bethesda Peppers) played tough defense on Thori all day. Even when she didn't have the ball, they marked her. And when she had the ball, they double-teamed her," said Andersch. "But she's got the strength to break out of the pack. She's a great scorer because of her speed and strength."

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